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Win a Romantic Retreat with VisitEngland

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
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Have you entered our competition in conjunction with VisitEngland yet? With the competition end date in sight, we want to make sure that you don’t miss out on the chance to win this fantastic prize and enjoy a cosy cottage holiday in one of our stunning romantic retreats! We’re offering one lucky winner £400 worth of Sykes Cottages vouchers and a luxury hamper full of goodies; but hurry, the competition closes on October 31st. You can enter by heading to the VisitEngland website.

Here at Sykes, we think a cottage getaway is the most romantic way to take a break with your partner (not that we’re biased!) and in honour of our competition with VisitEngland, we want to share just a few of our tips on making the most of your romantic getaway!

Turn your phones off

Romantic holiday cottage in the Peak District

House on the Hill, Peak District, Ref. 916619

There is nothing that kills the mood more than looking at your phone every few minutes to flick through Twitter, check your Facebook notifications and upload pictures to Instagram. Just stop. Avoid temptation by turning your phone off and instead, focus on spending time with your loved one.

Make the most of the cottage’s facilities

Romantic holiday cottage in Shropshire

The Old Chapel, Shropshire, Ref. 30035

If you do your research before you go and read about the facilities that your cottage has to offer, you’ll ensure that you get the most out of your getaway. If your cottage has a hot tub, make sure that you pack your swim suits; if there’s an iPod dock, create a romantic playlist for your time together; if your cottage has a bath then splash out on some luxurious bath products for you both to enjoy! It’s all in the details.

Treat yourselves

Romantic holiday cottage in Yorkshire Dales

Journeyman Loft, Yorkshire Dales, Ref. 12252

As all of our cottages are self-catering, why not stop off at a local food shop or supermarket on the journey to stock up on all of your favourite snacks, drinks and ingredients for delicious home-made meals. Eating in is much more intimate than heading out to a restaurant, where you are frequently interrupted by waiters and distracted by other diners; if you’re looking for the perfect romantic meal then we recommend you cook up a storm in your holiday cottage and enjoy the privacy!

If you’ve entered the competition already and are waiting with bated breath to find out the winner, why not spend your time planning your potential romantic getaway by having a browse of our fantastic romantic cottages collection. If you haven’t entered yet and want to do so, head to the VisitEngland website now!

Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.

Five Unusual Things to Do in Edinburgh

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
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Edinburgh is one of our favourite cities and we can often be found talking about the best places to go and things to do while you’re visiting the Scottish capital. Of course, there are the classics: Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace, Arthur’s Seat; but what about the more unusual things to do, that aren’t often mentioned in guidebooks? If like us, you’re fond of heading off the beaten-track, check out our pick of the five most unusual things to do whilst you’re in Edinburgh.


Via Flickr

Go underground with The Real Mary King’s Close

Although there are ghost tours aplenty in Edinburgh, The Real Mary King’s Close stands out as something a little different. This fascinating tour takes you down underneath the Royal Mile to a warren of 17th century streets, or ‘closes’ as they’re known, that have been frozen in time. These closes were part-demolished and buried underneath the Royal Exchange for a very long time, awash with rumours of plague victims being buried in the walls, and urban legends of murders and ghosts. They’ve now been opened up to the public and visitors can take the tour under the streets of Edinburgh, learning about the closes’ history, the people that lived there and the grisly things that took place.

See the Penguin Parade

While Edinburgh Zoo may not be the most unusual place for people to visit, the Penguin Parade is certainly one-of-a-kind. Edinburgh Zoo was actually the first zoo in the world to start housing and breeding penguins back in 1913, and they’ve remained a firm favourite with visitors ever since. The daily tradition of the Penguin Parade began in 1951 when a keeper accidentally left the enclosure door open and was followed around the zoo by the inquisitive escapees. It delighted visitors so much that the zoo continued the tradition and now, a parade of Gentoos, Rockhoppers and King Penguins occurs every day at 2.15pm.

Penguin at Edinburgh Zoo

Via Flickr

Visit the Royal Commonwealth Pool

Want to dive from the same diving board as Tom Daley? Head to Edinburgh’s Royal Commonwealth Pool, which played host to the diving events at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games! This 50m swimming pool has its own dedicated diving pool with facilities including 1m and 3m spring boards, as well as 3m, 5m, 7.5m and 10m platforms. You can either turn up at specially-allocated time slots for casual diving practice or pre-book an individual diving session with an instructor.

Walk the Water of Leith

Described as one of Edinburgh’s “best kept secrets”, the Water of Leith Walkway is a stunning path that takes you through Edinburgh city centre, along the River Leith and on to Leith itself. The walkway is perfect for a crisp afternoon stroll and takes walkers through charming villages such as Dean Village and Stockbridge; it also reveals fantastic views of Murrayfield Stadium.

Water of Leith, Edinburgh

Via Flickr

Take a Turkish Bath

Take a trip east from the city centre to the seaside suburb of Portobello, to discover a part of Edinburgh less-known to tourists. Whilst visiting this delightful beach resort, make sure you pay a visit to the Portobello Turkish Baths, which are one of only three working Turkish Baths still left in Scotland. Guests can take their pick from a steam room, relaxation area, three hot rooms and a cold plunge pool. Why not treat yourself to a little relaxation time away from the busy city and come back feeling fresh, rejuvenated and ready to sight-see!

If you’re planning on visiting Edinburgh or the surrounding areas, then make sure you check out Sykes Cottages’ fantastic range of holiday cottages in Scotland. We have over 550 properties located across the country, so you’re sure to find what you’re looking for!

Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.

Top 5 Scenic Drives in Ireland

Sunday, October 19th, 2014
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Ireland is well known for its stunning scenery; the Emerald Isle’s dramatic landscapes, lush green countryside, remote beaches and breath-taking cliffs are high on most people’s must-see list. One of the best ways to see as much of this beautiful country as you can, in all its glory, is to drive. There are many roads in Ireland – away from the main motorways – that reveal the most spectacular views to those who visit them, so we’ve listed our pick of the best Irish drives below.

1. Wild Atlantic Way

Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

Via Flickr

The Wild Atlantic Way requires a tad more commitment than the rest of our drives; this newly unveiled touring route has been hailed as not only one of the longest coastal routes in the world but also one of the most beautiful! This 1,553 mile route stretches from the Inishowen Peninsula in Co. Donegal, down the west coast of Ireland, to Kinsale, Co. Cork. Along the way, you’ll encounter some of the highest sea-cliffs in Europe, the most picturesque beaches in Ireland and maybe even catch a glimpse of some friendly bottlenose dolphins! If you don’t fancy driving the Wild Atlantic Way, you can see our guide to walking short sections of it, here.

2. Ring of Kerry

Ring of Kerry, Ireland

Via Flickr

The unspoilt, rugged beauty of the Ring of Kerry means it has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland, behind Dublin. This 115 mile tourist trail follows the N70, N71 and R562 around the Iveragh Peninsula, taking in a wealth of breathtaking sights including the spectacular views from Ladies View (named after Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting who fell in love with the scenery) and Bog Village, a unique village made up of 6 properties which have been restored to their original setting, including thatched roofing.

3. Causeway Coastal Route

The Causeway Coastal Route spans 120 miles between Northern Ireland’s most vibrant cities, Belfast and Londonderry, tracing the winding curves of the spectacular coastline in-between. The route takes in sprawling coastline, picturesque seaside villages and forest highlands. Make sure to stop off and experience wonders unique to this part of the world along the way, including the extraordinary Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (not for the faint hearted!) and the breath-taking UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway.

4. Dublin-Wicklow

Wicklow Mountains

Via Flickr

Escape the bustle of the Irish capital by heading south to the natural beauty of the Wicklow Mountains, known as the Garden of Ireland. Take the Military Road to get the best views; it can be a little windy and bumpy but the view is worth it. By taking Military Road, you’ll cross over the mountains and drive through the extensive heath-clad moors and bogs of the surrounding area. Turn east at the small village of Laragh to experience the delights of Glendalough Valley, home to Ireland’s oldest monastery settlement and picturesque teal corrie lakes.

5. Cooley Peninsula

Cooley Peninsula

Via Flickr

The Cooley Peninsula in County Louth provides an alternative to some of the more well-known scenic drives in the country. This beautiful but remote peninsula was awarded a European Destination of excellence award for its “intangible heritage” and is well worth a visit. Take a drive on the R173 which circles around Cooley Peninsula, and discover the sweeping Mourne Mountains, mysterious Carlingford Lough and the medieval town of Carlingford which is brimming with rich historical heritage.

If you fancy getting in your car and heading to the Emerald Isle, make sure you check out our fantastic selection of self-catering cottages in Ireland. With over 750 properties across the country, we’d be more than happy to help you find somewhere nice to stay along the way!

Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.

Hot Chocolate Recipes for a Lazy Sunday

Sunday, October 12th, 2014
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As the nights draw in and the temperatures begin to dip, one of my favourite Sunday evening activities is to curl up on the sofa with a hot beverage and a film. Normally, I’d go for a classic brew but when the weather takes a turn for the worse, there’s nothing better than an indulgent hot chocolate to warm you up! So in honour of these chocolatey delights, we’ve found some of the most unusual and mouth-watering hot chocolate recipes out there to feature on today’s blog. Enjoy!

Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate (serves one)

Recipe via

Salted caramel hot chocolate

Via Flickr


  • 3 tbsp salted caramel sauce (see here for recipe)
  • 250ml full fat milk
  • 50g finely chopped dark chocolate
  • Squirty cream to serve


  1. Pour milk, chocolate and salted caramel sauce into a saucepan and cook over medium heat.
  2. Stir until chocolate is melted and the liquid is rich.
  3. Pour into mug. Top with squirty cream and drizzle salted caramel sauce over the top.


Baileys Hot Chocolate (serves one)

Baileys Hot Chocolate

Via Flickr

Recipe via


  • 300ml milk
  • 50ml Baileys Irish Cream
  • 1 heaped tbsp hot chocolate powder


  1. Pour the milk and hot chocolate powder into a pan and leave on medium-high heat.
  2. Stir continuously for 3-4 minutes until there are no lumps and the mixture has started to thicken. Do not let the mixture boil.
  3. Take off the heat and stir for 15 seconds.
  4. Pour the Baileys into a glass, then add the hot chocolate mixture and give it a stir.
  5. Top with cocoa powder or flaked chocolate.
  6. You can also try this recipe with flavoured Baileys – how about trying with Baileys Orange Truffle?


Peanut Butter Hot Chocolate (serves one)

Recipe via

Peanut butter hot chocolate

Via Flickr


  • 150ml milk
  • 50ml water
  • 3 squares of either milk or dark chocolate
  • 1 heaped tbsp of smooth peanut butter


  1. Pour water, chocolate squares and peanut butter into a pan on medium heat.
  2. Stir well until chocolate and peanut butter have melted and formed a sticky paste.
  3. Add a splash of milk and stir in. Repeat with a larger splash. Then add the rest.
  4. Serve in mug.

If you do try out one of these recipes then let us know how you get on; we’d love to hear your thoughts! If you have any other delicious hot chocolate recipes that you’d like to share with us then please get in touch via our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.

Win a Romantic Autumn Getaway with Visit England!

Sunday, October 5th, 2014
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This month, we’ve teamed up with VisitEngland to offer you the chance to win £400 of Sykes Cottages vouchers to spend on a romantic autumn getaway! With its beautiful array of colours; dark, cosy nights and dipping temperatures perfect for snuggling; there’s something incredibly romantic about autumn. That’s why we want to help you make the most of this wonderful season and help you to spend some quality time with your loved one in one of our snug romantic cottages. In addition to the vouchers, you and your partner will also receive a luxury hamper full of delicious treats! To enter the competition, all you need to do is head to the VisitEngland website.

Romantic holiday cottage in Cornwall

Coachman’s, Cornwall, Ref. 982

To get you in the mood, take a look at some of the romantic retreats that you could be heading to in the near future!

The Cow Byre, Cumbria

Romantic holiday cottage in Cumbria

The Cow Byre, Cumbria, Ref. 7512

If you’re looking for a luxury autumn getaway, you’d be hard pressed to find something more opulent than The Cow Byre. This stunning open plan cottage is situated amongst the beautiful Cumbrian countryside, making it ideal for bracing walks and enjoying the autumn colours. On returning from your blustery walk, warm yourself in front of the cosy woodburner in the living area or head up to the galleried bedroom where you’ll find an irresistible claw-footed bath that’s just calling out for you to take a soak!

Forester’s Inn, Forest of Dean

Romantic holiday cottage in Forest of Dean

Forester’s Inn, Forest of Dean, Ref. 28825

For the ultimate cosy cottage getaway, look no further than Forester’s Inn at the heart of the Forest of Dean. Offering a charming combination of modern furnishings and original features, this characterful little cottage is picture-perfect. Just take a look at the roaring woodburner, plush rugs and comfy sofa in the living room; I’d defy anyone not to want to grab their other half and snuggle up for a night in front of the fire!

The Loft, North Yorkshire

Romantic holiday cottage in Yorkshire

The Loft, North Yorkshire, Ref. 13557

Fancy a romantic getaway immersed in nature? This intimate bolthole in the sleepy Yorkshire village of Staintondale is situated on a 14 acre smallholding, where you can visit the farm’s friendly Shetland Ponies and Highland Cows and if you’re lucky, you might even spot a roe deer! The Loft’s exposed beams, aged timber floors and super-king sized bed, all add to the snug atmosphere of this secluded romantic retreat.

To view our full selection of romantic cottages in the UK and Ireland, please visit our website. In order to be in with a chance of winning a stay at one of our fabulous cottages, please don’t forget to enter our competition in partnership with VisitEngland by visiting their website today.


Louise O'Toole

By Louise O'Toole

Louise loves reading, shopping, baking and cosy country pubs with log fires. A nice cup of tea will never be turned down. She has spent many childhood summers on the beach in Cornwall and walking the hills of the Lake District.